Pick the right format for your message.

Should you use a pie chart or a bar chart? Or just show a huge statistic in text on a plain background? Be open to displaying data in different ways, even if you’ve been used to making the same chart in every deck. In general, use pie charts when you want to show all of the parts that make up a whole or compare the percentages of one set to the percentages of another. Use bar charts when you need to show precise relationships and have larger data sets.

And if you only have one key message for your slide or the big message is just a number, why bother putting it in a chart at all? Display it in large text next to a visual, or simply on a plain background, for maximum impact.

Sadly, the lack of clarity in presentations isn’t a new problem. Incidents like what occurred at NASA, when presentation slides gave mixed readings about concerns that debris would damage the shuttle Columbia’s wing on reentry, which wound up causing the death of all eight astronauts aboard the shuttle, show that communicating clearly isn’t just a nice skill to have – it’s frequently a matter of life and death. But no tool or set of PowerPoint tips can make up for lack of sound judgment, honesty, and common sense. If those aspects aren’t present at your organization, PowerPoint isn’t going to fix your problem.

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